Worry! If we go by definition it is a form of thinking about future events in a way that leaves you feeling anxious or apprehensive. As a child, I had suffered from a lot of worries. For example, once I created a belief in my childhood that ‘doing anything thrice is wrong’. If I did it, then I have to face the unpleasant consequence. So I used to do that thing again one more time to make a total of four or more.
I grew up in a farming background family. My family used to live in a village, and our farms were few miles away from the village. It went like during the whole day, if I have visited my farm three times for different work. Then I used to go for one more time to ensure that count is more than three without any reason.
There was a big moringa tree on the way toward our farms, people used to say that a black cobra lives there near that tree. Every time while moving from there, I was having a sensational fear that I will encounter that cobra. But you know, it never happened. I could not find that cobra during my entire phase at the village on that sensational fear spot.
Another worry, which I recall was, going to a crowded place with my parents, thinking that I will be lost. Fear of separation from parents and not being able to return home was also a painful worry to me. When thunderstorms came, I worried for fear I would be killed by lightning. I don’t know how many times I had cried during that phase. There were so many such worries in those years for me.
“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”– Winston Churchill
Probability of Thing to Happen
The below excerpt, which is quite relevant on such worries is from ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’ by Dale Carnegie.
As the years went by, I gradually discovered that ninety-nine percent of the things I worried about never happened. For example, as I have already said, I was once terrified of lightning; but I now know that the chances of my being killed by lightning. According to National Geographic, annually about 2,000 people are killed worldwide by lightning. Therefore, according to these figures, the average human has roughly a 1 in 60,000 to 80,000 chance of falling victim to lightning in a lifetime of about 65–70 years. Furthermore, due to increased awareness and improved lightning conductors and protection, the number of annual lightning deaths has been decreasing steadily year by year.
One person out of every seventh die of cancer. If I had wanted something to worry about, I should have worried about cancer—instead of being killed by lightning.
The Law of Averages
To be sure, I have been talking about the worries of youth and adolescence. But many of our adult worries are almost as absurd. You and I could probably eliminate nine-tenths of our worries right now by the law of averages, which is a real justification for our worries.
The most famous insurance company on Earth—Lloyd’s of London—has made countless millions of dollars out of the tendency of everybody to worry about things that rarely happen. Lloyd’s of London bets people that the disasters they are worrying about will never occur. However, they don’t call it betting. They call it insurance. But it is really betting based on the law of averages. This great insurance firm has been going strong for over two hundred years; and unless human nature changes, it will still be going strong fifty centuries from now by insuring shoes and ships and sealing wax against disasters that, by the law of averages, don’t happen nearly so often as people imagine.
If we examine the law of averages, we will often be surprised at the facts we uncover. For example, if I knew that during the next five years I would have to fight in a battle, I would be terrified. I would take out all the life insurance I could get. I would draw up my will and set all my earthly affairs in order. And I would say, “I’ll probably never live through that battle, so I had better make the most of the few years I have left.”
Yet the facts are that, according to the law of averages, it is just as dangerous, just as fatal, to try to live from age fifty to age fifty-five in peacetime as it was to fight in the battle. The point is: in times of peace, just as many people die per thousand between the ages of fifty and fifty-five as were killed per thousand among the soldiers who fought at the battle.
Story of Once Worried Woman
Dale Carnegie met Mr. and Mrs. Herbert H Salinger, of San Francisco. Mrs. Salinger, a poised, serene woman, gave me the impression that she had never worried. One evening in front of the roaring fireplace, I asked her if she had ever been troubled by worry. “Troubled by it?” she said. “My life was almost ruined by it. Before I learned to conquer worry, I lived through eleven years of self-made hell. I was irritable and hot-tempered. I lived under terrific tension.
Those days, I would take the bus every week from my home in San Mateo to shop in San Francisco. But even while shopping, I worried myself into a dither: maybe I had left the electric iron connected on the ironing board. Maybe the house had caught fire. Maybe the maid had run off and left the children. Also some more terrible like maybe they had been out on their bicycles and been killed by a car. In the midst of my shopping, I would often worry myself into a cold perspiration and rush out and take the bus home to see if everything was all right. No wonder my first marriage ended in disaster.
Turning Point of Positive Change
“My second husband is a lawyer—a quiet, analytical man who never worries about anything. When I became tense and anxious, he would say to me, “Relax. Let’s think this out … What are you really worried about? Let’s examine the law of averages and see whether or not it is likely to happen.” “For example, I remember the time we were driving on a dirt road—when we were caught in a terrible rainstorm.
“The car was slithering and sliding. We couldn’t control it. I was positive we would slide off into one of the ditches that flanked the road; but my husband kept repeating to me: ‘I am driving very slowly. Nothing serious is likely to happen. Even if the car does slide into the ditch, by the law of averages, we won’t be hurt.’ His calmness and confidence quieted me.
“One summer we were on a camping trip. One night, we were camping seven thousand feet above sea level, when a storm threatened to tear our tents to shreds. The tents were tied with guy ropes to a wooden platform. The outer tent shook and trembled and screamed and shrieked in the wind. I expected every minute to see our tent torn loose and hurled through the sky. I was terrified! But my husband kept saying: ‘Look, my dear, we are traveling with Brewsters’ guides. They have been pitching tents in these mountains for sixty years. This tent has been here for many seasons. It hasn’t blown down yet and, by the law of averages, it won’t blow away tonight; and even if it does, we can take shelter in another tent. So relax …’ I did; and I slept soundly the balance of the night.
“‘By the law of averages, it won’t happen.’ That phrase has destroyed ninety percent of my worries; and it has made the past twenty years of my life beautiful and peaceful beyond my highest expectations.”